I was chatting with a small group of men when one identified himself as a Redskins fan. I asked him what he thought of the controversy with the Redskins name. He scoffed.
"I'm part Indian," said this lily-white dude, in that unconvincing manner in which people say "I'm not racist, but" or "True story!" "And it doesn't bother me at all." He looked smug, as though he'd just won the argument in a rout. If he'd only had a mic, he would have dropped it at my feet.
"People need to stop being so uptight," said someone else. Everyone agreed, and I once again found myself in the wholly unfamiliar position of being the bleeding heart at the table.
I allowed that far too many people parse every utterance for offense, for the pretext for demanding an apology. I hate that crap. Those people are not only an annoying scourge; their constant wolf-crying makes people deaf to more legitimate complaints. Legitimate complaints like, say...
"We're really cool with making a race's skin color a mascot? I'm the only person who thinks that's gross?"
"IT'S AN HOMAGE! REDSKIN MEANS HONORABLE WARRIOR!" someone yelled in my ear.
"See, when you have to say one word means completely different words—words that have nothing to do with the first word's etymology—that's got a whiff of self-serving bullshit to it," I said, making friends. "Give me one other example where redskin was used to mean honorable warrior."
This being the age of Trump, they answered my question with hostile irrelevance and at least three classic logical fallacies. "Are we supposed to get rid of Indians, Chiefs, and Seminoles, too? What about the Fighting Irish? Wah, Buckeye trees might be offended too!" They laughed. This was great stuff.
"And when you mock an argument I did not make, the bullshit smell only gets stronger. None of those mascots are based on a race's skin color. My point remains that Redskin is obviously different. Obvious to me, anyway."
"It's no different!" said the Redskin fan, using volume instead of a logical premise. And then the already-surreal conversation took a dive into the Abyss of Dumbfoundedness.
"People really need to stop being so damned sensitive all the time," said Earl, a middle-aged black dude.
Yep. I thought of all of the things you just thought of. The hypocrisy, the lack of empathy, the parallels, various racial analogies. ("It's an homage, Earl! Really! It means regal philanthropists! You need to stop being so sensitive.") I drew a breath to say these things. And then my gaze met Earl's. He's both a friend and a dick, and he couldn't wait to pounce on my next utterance. I double-dog dare you, motherfucker, said his look. Yeah. Go there.
"Well, I guess I'm wrong. Making a vanquished minority's skin color our sports mascot is obviously an homage to their entire race's warrior prowess."
I texted Stephanie and quietly showed it to Earl.